Navigating The Unemployment Process

5.pngOver the past 6 weeks, our office has received hundreds of phone calls, emails, and social media messages related to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, the calls were specific to the illness itself – What if I have symptoms? How do I get tested? Then, they progressed into questions about the Governor’s Stay at Home order: Is my business essential? Am I supposed to go to work? However, since then, the vast majority (as in 99%) of the questions we are receiving are from our bosses in the 7th Legislative District and beyond, who need help with their unemployment claims.

More than 858,000 workers have filed for unemployment since the middle of March. To put that number into some context, this is literally TEN TIMES the number of people who filed this time last year. The State’s antiquated system is overwhelmed. Applicants who have gone weeks without their benefits are understandably frustrated.

I have personally spoken to the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor about the complaints we are hearing from everyone. Rest assured, while it is little consolation to those who try calling unemployment hundreds of times a day, those complaints have not fallen on deaf ears.

To help address some of the main roadblocks to people certifying their claims, the NJDOL released some guidance to make sure people are certifying during their correct times and answering questions 1-7 correctly. Incorrect answers to these questions are contributing to delays. For instance, many claimants who have a “filed” status are getting a “not payable at this time” message. Approximately 40% of people getting this message are getting it because they answered question #2 “Are you seeking work” incorrectly.

If you’ve been trying to certify your benefits, please review the information below and make sure you’re certifying during your allotted timeframe and answering the questions correctly. And, as always, if you still need assistance, please contact my office at 856-234-2790/ SenSingleton@njleg.org and a member of Team Troy will try to assist you.

3-Step Process to Proper Certification:

  • Step 1 Find your Time: Claimants who are eligible to certify should check scheduled times for certification. To keep the system from overloading NJDOL only permits people to certify for benefits at certain times on their day. This schedule can change from week to week. It can be found here: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/schedule.shtml

  • Step 2 Enter the Certification Program: Claimants who are eligible to certify should log in to their online dashboard or for a direct route use this link: https://lwdwebpt.dol.state.nj.us/CertQueueMini/employerVerifyForm.htm

    By phone: Claimants who are eligible to certify should call in the area which they filed from:  North New Jersey:  201-601-4100 - Central New Jersey:  732-761-2020 - South New Jersey:  856-507-2340 -Out-of-state claims:  888-795-6672

  • Step 3 Answer the Questions correctly: Claimant will be asked to respond to certification questions. They should use the guide below to answer:

Question 1 - Were you able and available for work?

Unless you are too physically ill to work, the answer to this question should be YES.  If you are out of work temporarily due to a closure related to the coronavirus and expect to return to your job, say YES to this question.

Question 2 - Were you actively seeking work?

If you are waiting to be recalled to your present job, or delaying your job search until this natural emergency ends or subsides, you should answer YES.

Question 3 – Did you refuse any work?

If you refused an offer of work due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, you should answer NO.

Question 4 - Were you attending school or job training?

If you are a student and just filed this unemployment claim as a result of the coronavirus emergency, and the Division of Unemployment Insurance has not reviewed your school status, please answer NO to this question (even if you are attending school online) at this time.

If you are a student who filed an Unemployment Insurance claim prior to this emergency, and have already provided the department with your school information, and your school is currently closed due to the coronavirus, please answer this question in the same manner (Yes or No) you would have prior to the school closing. 

Question 5 – Did you receive holiday or vacation pay for the week beginning mm-dd-2020 and ending mm-dd-2020?

If your separation is temporary and was caused by the coronavirus emergency, please answer NO to this question. However, if you receive any type of wage while you are not working, answer YES TO QUESTION #7 (see below) AND REPORT THE AMOUNT THERE.

Question 6 – Are you receiving or have you applied for a pension or other retirement pay from any of the employers listed below?

You should answer “YES” only if you are currently receiving pension or other retirement benefit payments from one of the employers listed below.  If you are currently paying into a pension or other retirement plan but you are not receiving payments, you should answer “NO."  If you are receiving pension payments from an employer who is not listed you should also answer “NO."

Question 7 – Did you work between mm-dd-2020 and mm-dd-2020?

If you did any work between the designated dates, answer YES and report what you earned. If you know you will not have work the following week, immediately (no later than Saturday of the week in which you are claiming) follow steps to REOPEN/REASSERT THE CLAIM. If you received holiday/vacation/sick pay from your employer during this week, report that information here

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  • Kathleen Strykowsky
    commented 2020-05-03 09:03:43 -0400
    Hi Mr Singleton, My daughter, Michele, had just become a Nurse Practioner, left her job as a nurse at Jefferson Hospital in February to start her new job at an OB/GYN on March 16th. She was furloughed on March 24th, her last day was March 26th, and she completed her NJ Unemployment Application with confirmation on March 29th. She has been “pending” ever since.
    She knows that she probably isn’t eligible for Unemployment because she hadn’t worked there long enough but she needs to be rejected by NJ before she can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
    She and her fiancee, an electrician and Army Reserve military, had just bought their first home before the pandemic, and had settlement on April 9th, wiping out their savings, and are now paying a mortgage plus rent on their old apartment for several more months, plus student loans, on just his salary. Plus they just had to pay thousands to their October wedding venue to continue to hold their date. We are helping out with some money to bridge the gap as we can, but we are retired.
    Thanks, Kathleen
  • Tara Boell Treppiedi
    commented 2020-05-01 09:14:56 -0400
    Can they please go back to having a time for people who can’t make their scheduled time? I hate to complain when I get that the system and staff are so overwhelmed but to wait 5 weeks and they get assigned one hour on a certain day, or too bad you miss out, not everyone is able to do that assigned hour.
  • Nicole Perri
    commented 2020-04-30 12:27:41 -0400
    Hi Mr. Singleton, I’m just frustrated with the unemployment process as my claim has been pending since March 15 as they required additional information. Unfortunately I did not see there initial e-mail from eAdjudication which indicated that I had to sign in by March 30 to update or correct the information. I missed the deadline and was advised by an online message that I need to call in to speak to an agent. This is where the frustration comes in as I have been calling 20+ times per day for the last 3+ weeks or so and I can’t talk to anyone!!!! I get caught in a constant taped-message loop and then the message states to call back the next day. I call 732-761-2020, 856-507-2340, and 609-292-0695. I even sent 4 online e-mails, but no one has responded. What can I do? PLEASE HELP!!!!